A measles outbreak in southwestern Washington state has grown to 16 confirmed cases, and most of the children affected are unimmunized against the disease, officials said Thursday.
A Clark County Public Health release says officials have been tracking the outbreak since Jan. 1. Of the 16 confirmed cases, 13 of the cases are children under the age of 11, officials say.
Only two of the children have an unverified immunization status; the other 14 are unimmunized, officials say.
Clark County has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the state, with more than 22 percent of public school students having not completed their vaccinations, The Oregonian reports, citing state records.
Contagious patients have visited schools and medical facilities, as well as the Portland International Airport and retailers including the Northeast Portland Costco and Ikea stores.
Officials say the disease is highly contagious and can cause fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes and rash.
“Measles can be dangerous, especially for babies and young children. In rare cases, it can be deadly,” a Washington State Department of Health fact sheet says.
In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 17 outbreaks in the U.S. and a total of 349 cases.
People choosing not to vaccinate has emerged into a global health threat in 2019, the the World Health Organization recently reported.
The agency cites measles as an example; the disease has seen a 30 percent increase in cases worldwide.
“The reasons for this rise are complex, and not all of these cases are due to vaccine hesitancy,” said WHO in a statement. “However, some countries that were close to eliminating the disease have seen a resurgence.”
Contributing: Brett Molina, USA TODAY; The Associated Press